The positive and negative impact of driverless cars

09 May, 2017

Posted at 09:13h in Uncategorised

Not long ago driverless cars were in the realms of science fiction, but a driverless world could happen in as little as 3 years. 2016 saw the first cars tested in the UK on the streets of Milton Keynes, the first fatal car crash in the US involving a car on autopilot, and driverless cars removed from the streets of San Francisco over a licensing dispute. Google’s driverless cars have covered more than 1.7 million miles since 2007. In the coming year the UK government hopes to see trials of driverless cars on British motorways. So what impact will driverless cars have on us financially, economically, emotionally, and physically?

First lets look at the positive impacts driverless cars may have.

The atmosphere: There will be less pollution due to autonomous vehicles being electric. Anyone who has been in an electric car or hybrid can tell you that it’ll mean less noise pollution too.

Safety: This is often considered to be the biggest selling point of autonomous vehicles in the future. Studies show fatal accidents significantly reduced in a driverless world. Laser, radar, ultrasonic and camera sensors will give vehicles superhuman capabilities when it comes to detecting hazards. Whilst humans may have lapses in concentration, tiredness and distractions on the road, the computer chip controlling the driverless car will not. Also, women won’t have to worry about late night taxi rides with anonymous drivers.

Financial: The cost of taxi rides is mostly made up of paying the driver, shipping costs will go down due to less staffing costs and no petrol or diesel being required for driverless vehicles.

Social: People will be able to eat/drink in transit (like on a train or plane) and consume more information (reading, podcasts, video, etc). This will open up time for other activities and perhaps increased productivity as people find themselves hands-free on their daily commute.

Time to take a look at what the negative impacts may be

Public transport: Trains may become obsolete if driverless cars are so reliable, affordable and plentiful. Autonomous buses are in the works in the form of larger vehicles that can pick up multiple passengers for the same route, which will be significantly cheaper than fuel-fed trains.

Economical: Loss of jobs for mechanics, taxi drivers, around 300,000 UK HGV drivers, auto insurers, lawyers, revenue from traffic offenses or parking tickets, and surely countless others. New industries will pop up according to the demands of maintaining driverless vehicles but the losses are predicted to be greater.

Safety: The entire system will evolve around the internet. The constant connection required means the network will be vulnerable to terrorist attack, hacks and bugs, or even solar flares that could knock out the system.

Motion sickness: A study by researchers at The University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute determined that self-driving cars will cause motion sickness ‘often’ to ‘always’.

Researchers looked at the three main factors that cause motion sickness (conflict between vestibular and visual inputs; inability to anticipate the direction of motion; and lack of control over the direction of motion) and determined that they are elevated in self-driving vehicles. With passengers being much more likely to experience motion sickness than drivers, the likelihood of feeling travel sick will increase.

The lead researcher, Mr. Sivak, went on to further explain why more people will experience motion sickness in a driverless future. He clarified that being a passenger in an autonomous vehicle will be quite different than riding along in a train or other mode of public transportation, as self-driving cars will be subject to more lateral and longitudinal acceleration/deceleration that is drastically less smooth. The small windows will also contribute. Lastly, what adults will do whilst in their driverless cars will have a significant impact. In an opinion survey of 3,255 adults from the U.S., China, India, Japan, Australia and the U.K., respondents named reading, talking/texting, sleeping, watching movies/TV, working and playing games as the activities they would engage in while riding in self-driving cars. According to the study, almost all of the activities mentioned worsen the frequency and severity of motion sickness. Fortunately, there are more ways than ever to reduce or eliminate the effects of motion sickness, so this might not impact people’s daily lives as much as first thought.

Written by Kelly Barrett